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Gas fireplaces, stoves and inserts are mandated in new homes in many locations as a less polluting source of heat to enhance the warmth of the hearth.

Unfortunately, gas appliances aren't without safety concerns and the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) is sounding a preemptive alarm to protect children, at-risk individuals and pets from burns resulting from touching glass fronts on gas appliances for the hearth.

"While gas fireplaces, stoves and inserts are a great asset to any home, the glass can become extremely hot during operation and stay hot long afterwards, creating a potential burn hazard," said Jack Goldman, president and CEO of HPBA.

HPBA's 2012 Hearth Consumer Survey, found gas fireplaces with a glass front in 11 million households, but more than half of those households were unaware of the risk of burns from touching the glass fronts.

"In the past several years, there have been reports of burns involving young children and others who may not been aware of the potential risk of burns by touching the hot glass and surrounding panels on gas fireplaces, inserts and stoves. And, though we believe these incidents are few and rare, even one is too many," Goldman said.

Safety screens, protective panels

To help prevent burns, new rules mandate a safety screen or gate or protective panel for all gas-fired, certified fireplaces manufactured after Jan. 1 2015. More than five million households already use protective barriers for their glass-front gas fireplaces.

"For the past year, the fireplace industry has been working to develop a new safety standard for gas fireplaces to prevent serious, irreversible burns from hot glass. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been monitoring the process," said Goldman.

Safety screens and gates add a physical barrier to the hearth by substantially increasing the distance between the firebox and living space. Panels attach to the firebox's glass frame to create an air space barrier between the hot glass and the panel.

To the touch, the attached panels are cooler than the existing firebox glass, however, they can get hot enough to burn someone who maintains extended contact with the surface of the attached panel. Also, the wrong aftermarket safety screens attached to an existing fireplace, stove or insert can adversely affect the safe and efficient operation of some units.

For aftermarket products, contact the safety screen manufacturer and gas appliance manufacturer to verify that the fireplace manufacturer approves the safety screen.

The industry, aware of the panels' shortcoming and not willing to wait for the standards' effective date, is using SafeFireTips.com to mount a consumer safety education and outreach program designed to raise awareness about fireplace safety.

"The industry already has begun educating and working with media and safety groups, including the CPSC, to make sure that owners of gas fireplaces, stoves and inserts know that they need to take steps to provide an added level of protection for young children and others who don't understand the risk of touching hot glass," said Goldman.

HPBA advises owners of gas fireplaces, stoves and inserts that have glass fronts to observe these safety tips:

• Always supervise children, the aged, infirm or pets near an operating gas fireplace, stove or insert - or one that has recently been turned off.

• Keep the remote control out of the reach of children.

• Install a switch lock to prevent children from turning on the appliance.

• Make sure family members and guests are aware that the glass on a gas fireplace, stove or insert can be very hot.

• Wait for the appliance and glass to cool down before allowing anyone to get near it, noting that the cool down can take a long time - an hour or more.

• Be aware that metal surfaces, such as doorframes and grilles, may also get hot.

• Always read the owner's manual and follow instructions.

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